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Civil Society Partnership with the State

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Civil society includes the structures of voluntary association, the values and norms that mobilize citizen action, and the modes of independent communication and information sharing that enable citizen awareness and activity. This essay seeks to discuss the two broad relationships that exist between the state and the civil society. The essay will begin by explaining why the relationship seems to be good when it comes to issues of public service delivery drawing examples from the Zambian experience. It will further explain why relationship is labeled as hostile, fragile and confrontational when it comes to issues of good governance, human rights, rule of law and participation and thereafter justifies the position where it stands.

Civil society organizations and associations include neighborhood groups, churches, non-governmental development organizations, cooperatives, soccer clubs, choral societies and many other associations. In these reflections, the term civil society organization (CSO) covers formal and informal structures that are formed by groups of individuals outside the state framework in order to pursue a particular cause they believe in.  Civil society action in Africa and elsewhere has focused on ways in which information provision and other activities mobilize citizens for collective action and demands for redress.  In a democracy, civil society groups have respect for the law, for the rights of individuals, and for the rights of other groups to express their interests and opinions.

The civil society is often discussed in contrast to the state and the market. Put simply, the state is concerned with public goods and mobilizing resources through state authority; and the market is concerned with producing private goods and services and mobilizing resources through market exchange. Civil society, in contrast, is concerned with common goods defined by social groups and it mobilizes resources through social visions and values (Van Rooy, 2008).

In Africa, the relationship between citizens and the state as well as that between organized formations and their governments has historically varied, and continues to vary from one country to another. Even within a country, relations are not always the same, they change periodically and contextually. The context, in most cases-politics, determines the nature and character of relations. Civil society groups may establish ties to political parties and the state, but they must retain their independence, and they do not seek political power for themselves.

However the relationship between the state and civil society seems good in terms of public service delivery.  Generally Civil Society Organizations act both as partners and watchdogs of the government. CSOs have become important complementing partners for the government in the provision of public services delivery such as clean drinking water, health facilities, education facilities and road infrastructure. This partnership has worked relatively well due to the number of reasons discussed as; Open and transparent government is key to facilitating social engagement and restoring trust. In difficult times, trust is vital to ensure the success of reforms. Openness and transparency helps redefine the boundaries between the public and the private spheres and to strengthen integrity. Information communication Technologies (ICTs) provide unique opportunities to improve transparency and access, facilitating better engagement with the public as well as improving.

Openness, integrity and transparent. The relationship seems good because an open government helps strengthen trust and build indispensable support for reform. Greater engagement with citizens and civil society is a key part of open and transparent government. Open government also lead to more direct and effective engagement with citizens, civil society and businesses. Reaffirming the core values of the public sector will help improve public sector performance in terms of public service delivery (Mutesa, 2009).

Furthermore the relationship seems good because the government provides evidence on its performance. The Organization for economic cooperation and development (OECD) continues to collect data, develop comparative analysis, and build indicators on public sector performance and innovation, to better advice on how public governance policies, practices and arrangements contribute to improved economic performance.

The OECD ensures that they assess the main current and future challenges and constraints facing
governments, and propose innovative approaches for building a more efficient,
effective and well-performing public sector with a focus on identifying best practice thereby Fostering a more efficient, effective and innovative public sector. It should
draw lessons from country experience and, where possible, develop policy guidance on key
levers for agility and performance such as: e-government and the use of new technologies, human resource management and human capital, budgeting and public expenditure; partnerships with citizens, civil society and the private sector, and for developing evaluation frameworks to measure the effectiveness of government initiatives.

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